Nationalism, America style
Nationalism is what made us great, argues Rich Lowry in The Case for Nationalism: How It Made US Powerful, United and Free (New York: Broadside Books/HarperCollins Publishers, 2019). Nationalism tends to sport its particular flavor depending on who champions and shapes it. In our case, it is democratic nationalism that makes us exceptional. “America is a nation… What makes us different is that our ideas are true. That our claim to chosenness has been better demonstrated, by our essential goodness and power, than that of any other country” (p. 14).
Further, our brand is that of cultural nationalism. “The preservation of the American cultural nation” should be our absolute priority (p. 214). “Culture is seeded in ideas.” They are best expressed in the English language which “remains a pillar of our national identity” (p. 18-19). And we hear you: Neither Greek nor Roman, not a Jew or Gentile, we are all children of God fit to embrace, and to be embraced by, American nationalism. “It isn’t based on hatred, instead on love: our affection for home and our own people” (p. 32).
Love fosters loyalty. Loyalty reaches back for memories to strengthen its sword of imagination via fostering continuity. “Memory is what gives a nation its self-image and its sense of unity and coherence” (p. 199).
However, nationalism is in disfavor in government, business, media, and academia. Our elites have betrayed us, and ditched nationalism in favor of globalism and other progressive, and, ultimately, anti-American projects. They consider our nation, any nation, really, as an artificial construct. America is fake; it is an artificial construct – runs the progressive screed. To such treasonous defilement, the author retorts sharply: “Nations aren’t mere intellectual constructs but accretions of history and culture, usually shaped over the long term by their beginnings” (p. 102).
If this sounds like a MAGA commercial, Lowry should be forgiven. His is a common sense plea to reembrace American nationalism to save these United States of America. To prevent the looming tragedy, Lowry has given us a primer on American nationalism. The author traces its origins back rather aptly to the Old Testament. Next, Lowry draws a straight line to America’s Puritan roots via a detour to England. One recoils, however, from the author’s praise of various sectarians, including apparently the Lollards of the 14th century, as virtually an inspiration for the United States (p. 105), as reflected in the Puritans.
There is surely a continuity of tradition, in particular Christianity in its variegated manifestations in the colonies. The theocratic Puritans were certainly a part of the variety; but they soon developed plenty of competition outside of Massachusetts. Yes, they were among the first on these teeming shores but they held no monopoly on shaping America. Instead, we see a typical story of multiple points of entry by multiple peoples, arriving over time.
Why not give some credit to Catholic Marylanders? How about Maryland’s initial settlement town of St. Mary’s City being the first urban center in the American colonies to institute religious freedom to all Christians, save the anti-Trinitarians? I bet the presence of the Maryland Catholics at least partly informed wise decision of the Founding Fathers not to establish an official American Church.
Culture is generated by increments, including the American culture in its melting pot. Lowry signals so but fails to include the Marylander factor in the story of the origin. This insight would have strengthened the overall universalist argument of The Case for Nationalism.
The rest of the story is pretty straightforward and should not be controversial to any American patriot who supports nationalism anchored in a universalist framework. “We should hope that America’s racial and ethnic lines blur, rather than harden, under the benign influence of intermarriage, perhaps the best friend of national unity over the long run” (p. 204). Intermarriage, culture, and history rather than unrestricted emigration should drive the American project.
Granted, The Case for Nationalism is a plebeian and sectarian tale of the origins of American nationalism, but it should do a sufficient job, with some readjustment, of rekindling the American spirit for the great task of a cultural Reconquista and, ultimately, a counterrevolution to restore the United States of America to those who care about the nation and its democratic nationalism that made it great. This is because, according to Lowry, most importantly, “our country… should come first” (p. 5). A corrective: God should come first, then the nation. Otherwise we court a neo-pagan disaster. Aside from that, we are in a tentative agreement with the author’s solutions to remedy the contemporary ills afflicting our great country.